FACTS after five months or 154 days of siege/war/terrorism/destruction:
- 920 Maute terrorists killed;
- 165 soldiers, policemen killed in action; 1,500 wounded in action;
- 864 firearms recovered;
- 1,780 civilians/hostages rescued;
- 300 to 400,000 displaced Marawi/ Lanao del Sur Maranaw residents;
- P3-billion to P5-billion budget spent for military and bombing operations.
When news broke out on the death of a law student of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila due to a fraternity hazing, the Senate, through Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, initiated an investigation like lighting speed, with the intention of amending the law on hazing.
In the Marawi siege, 165 of our troops and policemen were killed in action and almost a thousand civilians also died in the course of war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced and affected. Shall we not call for truth, accountability and justice as well? If we had a congressional hearing on the death of one man in a hazing and on the Mamasapano incident where 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) were killed in January 2015, can we not have one also for Marawi?
The people of Marawi and Lanao need investigation in aid of legislation regarding the use of intelligence funds. We know for a fact that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions of funds for the yearly intelligence funds. How come thousands of terrorists infiltrated Marawi? Did the military, Philippine National Police and local governments fail in this breakout and spread of terrorism coming from the Middle East which popped out decade ago? We need laws for the strict use of intel funds amounting to billions. Are these not being used properly? Military, PNP and LGUs failed to alarm the civilians and prepare for the fight against terroristic acts in Marawi. If these government agencies spend billions annually for the so-called intelligence, why were they not able to anticipate the coming attack of the terrorists in the city? Do we not need to know the real implementation of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) modernization? How much money was already spent and how much are still needed to help our troops? Are military excluded from investigation of corruption? Strategies against Abu Sayyaf kidnapping have not been effective for three decades.
The people of Marawi and Lanao demand a congressional investigation in aid of legislation so we can craft amendment of laws on displacement of thousands of people. There is a gargantuan humanitarian crisis. Legislation for the betterment and welfare of our people is much needed. If we have yearly natural calamities in Visayas and Luzon caused by typhoons that led to the creation of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the existing Provincial, City, and Municipal Disaster Coordinating Councils in 2010, can we not amend the law to accommodate and answer the problem of man-made calamity and disasters like wars, kidnappings and terrorism in Mindanao? Can we not amend the law to better strengthen the capacity of the national government and the local governments so they can create effective evacuation centers and housing for those displaced by man-made and natural disasters?
Can we not amend the provisions of the Local Government Code regarding the increase of the internal allotment revenue or find ways of securing financial support to help those affected and displaced by natural and man-made calamities? We need legislation for the budget allocation for reparation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Yolanda rehabilitation was a disaster and the people of Marawi and Lanao fear that the failure of rehabilitation may be repeated. The contractors and officials in charge of rehabilitation in Yolanda disaster had not been accountable until now. Do we see same scenario? We pray it would not.
Marawi City is almost a dead city. Although 34 out of 98 villages of Marawi were the areas of war zone yet that area is where the major commercial buildings, government offices, major schools, markets, business and trade shops and almost all the main roads and infrastructure are totally damaged and devastated. And the thousands of residential houses were razed, burned and bombed to the ground. The people of Marawi and Lanao need to know the drug financers, supporters, planners local or international to be accountable. Do we also need new laws for massive looting/ robbery in the city?
If we had a congressional hearing on the Resort World deaths which involved arson of a hotel building and security concern months ago, why can’t we do similar investigation for a city that was almost entirely burned and looted?
The people of Marawi and Lanao also need to know the laxity of our immigration laws, from our officials at the Bureau of Immigration. We need harsher and stricter laws for the foreign terrorists who easily come into our airports and piers. Was there failure by our local officials to watch over the coming of these Isis or terrorist foreigners from Middle East or from Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia? It is time to have high security measures such as effective ID system so we can track the potential enemies of the state.
It is welcome news that the mayor of Marawi and the council members have passed a resolution requesting both houses to initiate an investigation for the most devastating man-made crisis in the history of the country. We pray that we could be heard.
I think Sen. Zubiri and some others have requested for this investigation. Let’s set aside all our colors of political affiliation but think of enacting laws for the betterment not just of the Maranaws but all the citizens of this country to avoid similar human-costly and financially draining destruction.
How the national politicians handle the Marawi crisis will reflect how the people of Marawi and Lanao or the Moros in general are being treated as citizens in this country. Moros or non-Moros, who crave for justice and for redress of historical wrongs, must be heard and be given justice. Aside from crafting laws to protect the people, congressional hearings and investigations can help shed light of truth to avoid similar senseless destruction.
After all, we live under one flag and one country, and Maranaws as people need to see ambers of hope, truth, justice and compassion from our government in this darkest period of our time.
(Maki T. Datu-Ramos II is a lawyer, historian, former public attorney and former prosecutor, a Maranaw whose parents and relatives are from the besieged Marawi. -Mindanews)